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April 5, 2013

Bobrek sub-camp of Auschwitz III camp, where prisoners worked as slave laborers

Filed under: Buchenwald, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:31 am

This morning, I read an article about Gilbert Michlin, a French Jewish prisoner, who survived the Holocaust because he was selected to be a slave laborer at the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz (Auschwitz III).

Main gate into the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz

Main gate into the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz

Prisoners working in the Bobrek factory

Prisoners working in the Bobrek factory

The photo above was taken in 1944 at the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz. It shows prisoners working in an airplane factory called Siemens Schuckert Werke. In the background, the man wearing a civilian suit is Herr Jungdorf, a German engineer for the Siemens company.

This quote is from the article about Gilbert Michlin, which you can read in full here:

In his memoir, Gilbert [Michlin] recalled French complicity in the deportation of Jews. He lovingly portrayed his father’s yearning to immigrate to America and his rejection at Ellis Island in 1923 [America had a quota on Jewish immigrants starting in 1921]; Gilbert’s own childhood dream to be an actor; and the shock of Nazi occupation and his arrest with his mother by French police at 2 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1944, two days before his 18th birthday.

A week later, Gilbert saw his mother for the last time as she was driven away from the Auschwitz platform in a truck.

It was at the [Auschwitz] death camp that a Siemens representative recruited Gilbert and about 100 others to a work unit. His father’s insistence that Gilbert learn a mechanical trade saved his life. Gilbert was selected for armaments production. Siemens kept its Bobrek factory prisoners together, even after the SS evacuated them in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945. They were transferred together from Buchenwald to Berlin. A few months later, the war was over.

Note that, at the Auschwitz “death camp,” 18-year-old Gilbert Michlin was recruited by a Siemens representative for a work unit in the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz. This is the first time that I have ever heard of a Siemens rep recruiting workers at Auschwitz.  I thought that everyone who was transported to Auschwitz was at the mercy of  Dr. Josef Mengele who was always at the ramp when the trains arrived.  Was there a Siemen’s representative standing there as well, doing some recruiting for the Siemens company?

Prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau had to undergo selection

Prisoners arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau had to undergo selection, for work or the gas chamber

Monowitz was originally a sub-camp of the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camp, and it was known as Bunalager (Buna Camp) until November 1943 when it became the Auschwitz III camp with its own administrative headquarters. Auschwitz III consisted of 28 sub-camps which were built between 1942 and 1944. This area of Upper Silesia was known as the “Black Triangle” because of its coal deposits. The Buna plant attracted the attention of the Allies, and there were several bombing raids on the factories.

Auschwitz III was established at the site of the chemical factories of IG Farbenindustrie near the small village of Monowitz, which was located four kilometers from the town of Auschwitz. The IG Farben company had independently selected this location around the same time that Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler decided, in April 1940, to locate a new concentration camp in the town of Auschwitz. The most important factory at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz, was the Buna Werke, which was owned by the IG Farben company.

Of the three Nazi concentration camps located near the town of Auschwitz, the Auschwitz III camp was the most important to the Nazis because of its factories which were essential to the German war effort. The Monowitz industrial complex was built by Auschwitz inmates, beginning in April 1941. Initially, the workers walked from the Auschwitz main camp to the building site, a distance of seven kilometers.

The decision to build chemical factories at Auschwitz transformed the village of Monowitz. On February 2, 1941, Herman Göring ordered the Jews in the village to be relocated to a ghetto, and German civilians moved into their former homes.

When the factories at Monowitz were opened, the town of Auschwitz quickly went from a primitive town of 12,000 inhabitants to a modern German town of 40,000 people which included an influx of German engineers and their families. Both the main Auschwitz camp and the Birkenau camp were expanded in order to provide workers for the factories. Before Monowitz became a separate camp with barracks buildings, the prisoners had to walk from the other camps to the factories.

According to Wikipedia, the Bobrek sub-camp of Monowitz was built by Siemens predecessor Siemens-Schuckert near the Polish village of Bobrek. The prisoners who worked there were producing electrical parts for German aircraft and U-boats.  On January 18, 1945, the prisoners from the Bobrek sub-camp were evacuated on a “death march” to the concentration camp in Gleiwitz, Poland, where they were put on a train to Buchenwald, from where they were transferred to a factory in a suburb of Berlin.  The Commandant of the Bobrek camp was SS-Scharführer Hermann Buch.

Heinrich Himmler on a visit to the Monowitz camp, with German engineers

Heinrich Himmler and Max Faust inspect the Monowitz camp

The photo above shows Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, a five-star general, (2nd from the left) who was the head of the SS and the man who was responsible for all the Nazi concentration camps. The man on the far left is Max Faust. This photo was taken when Himmler came to inspect the Monowitz factories on July 17th and 18th, 1942. Himmler is the man wearing a uniform. The two men on the right are German engineers.

The German engineers lived in the town of Auschwitz, after it was cleaned up to meet German standards of living. Slave labor was used to make improvements to the town, after Himmler volunteered the services of the concentration camp inmates.

The Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, and then assigned to work at Monowitz, had a much better chance of survival because the factory workers were considered too valuable to send to the gas chambers, at least while they were still able to work.
The figures below are from the Nazi records which were turned over to the Red Cross by the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism. They were published in a book written by Danuta Czech.

Male prisoners in Auschwitz III Monowitz (Buna-Werke) 10,223
Golleschau 1,008
Jawischowitz (Jawiszowice) 1,988
Eintrachthutte (Swietochlowice) 1,297
Neu-Dachs (Jaworzno) 3,664
Blechhammer (Blachownia) 3,958
Furstengrube (Wesola) 1,283
Gute Hoffnung (Janinagrube, Libiaz) 853
Guntergrube (Ledziny) 586
Brunn (Brno) 36
Gleiwitz I 1,336
Gleiwitz II 740
Gleiwitz III 609
Gleiwitz IV 444
Laurahutte (Siemianowice) 937
Sosnowitz 863
Bobrek 213
Trzebinia 641
Althammer (Stara Kuznia) 486
Tschechowitz-Dzieditz 561
Charlottengrube (Rydultowy) 833
Hindenburg (Zabrze) 70
Bismarckhutte (Hajduki) 192
Hubertushutte (Lagiewniki) 202
Subtotal 33,023

Female prisoners in Auschwitz III

Subtotal 2,095

Total for Auschwitz III: 35,118

Note that there were 213 survivors of the Bobrek sub-camp.